Big thank you from

The day the wireless arrived in Aghadrumglasny

The RAMBLER 23/03/2001


SAM Watson kept his word about letting the children listen-in on the wireless.

One day the youngsters were over the moon when they came in from school. They had seen Sam and asked him again, and he had told them to go to his house at six o'clock and he would let them listen to the clock, called 'Big Ben', striking in London.

Becky had no choice, and well before the time, the three of them were lined-up, ready to run the half mile to Watson's. When they came home again, they were so excited that their mother could hardly make out what the wireless was like, seemingly, some kind of a hoop of wire with two wee boot polish boxes attached. You put your ear to the lid of the wee boxes and you could hear music!

Sam had taken the boxes off the wire hoop and two of them had been able to listen in together, with one wee box each. Sam called the hoop and the wee boxes, 'head phones'. These were on a wire connected to the wireless and there was a thing inside it that Sam called the cat's whisker. It sat in a little glass thing, out of reach.


James had to hear all about it when he came in from the field. Like Becky, he was mystified but the children were all agreed on one thing. They had heard a big clock striking six and a man saying, "This is London."

Before the year ended, the mystery was solved, or almost. Cousins of Becky came from California for a long holiday and stayed with Becky's brother, who had a big house about a mile away, near Moira. One of these was a wireless enthusiast, and he was actually able to assemble crystal sets.

He made one for Becky and for her brother as well, with cat's whisker and headphones and all complete. He got the parts in Smithfield in Belfast and was actually experimenting with what he called valves, to make a valve set.

One day he blew a valve and when he admitted that the valve had cost him a pound the whole parish talked about nothing else for weeks. A pound was big money in 1925 - the price of a ton of potatoes - wasted! Anyhow, Becky's children. were delighted when Tim and James put up poles and wire (called an aerial) in the haggard and the Yank arrived with a wireless and headphones. He showed them how to lay the headphones down in an empty tin basin and hear the music without putting the wee boxes near their ears.

For weeks Becky had rows every evening over the headphones and eventually she had to confiscate them altogether until the wee ones all agreed to take turns to listen for five minutes. It took a long time to get agreement on that. and many confiscations.

There were tugs-of-war and rows galore with the cat's whisker in the middle.

Only Tim had the knack of readjusting it. It was a coil of fine wire which had to be 'fine-tuned' to keep contact with a crystal. Naturally, Tim wasn't amenable to constant harassment. If they didn't "leave the wireless alone" and stop fiddling with it, he just let them do without.

James and Becky kept out of it. They had other things to do. If the news was on and the wireless was going they listened, but paid little attention to music "too high falutin."

With other farm produce almost unsaleable, James concentrated on feeding hens and pigs on potatoes and grain. There was a market for eggs and pork. As well he needed home-cured bacon to feed the family.

He had to go all the way to Magheragall mill with the grain, but he was glad he had it for the stock, including the horses.

At the end of 1925, things could hardly have been worse. His next door neighbour actually carted tons of potatoes out of his barn and dumped them at the end of a field to rot. rather than take £1 a ton in the market.

If they had foreseen the national coal strike which followed in 1925 and lasted for months they would have been even more depressed.

Ulster Star